Monsters University

Summary:

Monsters University is colorful return trip to the world of our favorite lively monsters, making it one of Pixar’s biggest movies yet. The characters have never looked better and Pixar’s visual excellence continues to impress as it does year after year. The movie isn’t without its flaws though, the biggest being it’s paint by the numbers story. Given that it’s a prequel we pretty much know how things are going to play out leaving the element of surprise missing throughout the movie. Its humor tends to lean more on the childish side, lacking the dual cleverness that both children and adults can enjoy. That being said the story is still a heartwarming tale if not too familiar, and the wonderful cast of supporting characters help hammer home it’s themes, even if they are transparently worn on the sleeve. It may not be Pixar’s most captivating film story wise but Monsters University is still a cute and fun ride with charming old friends from start to finish!

Monsters-University-2013-Movie-Poster2

It’s that time of year again! This past Friday Pixar released its fourteenth featured length film, Monsters University! It’s always a treat when it comes to Pixar movies and it’s a trip to the theaters I anticipate each year. Although I quite enjoyed Brave and its wonderful cast of characters last year, I was mainly disappointed with the story’s play it safe feel. Going in I was really pulling for Monsters University to surprise me again but unfortunately this film has just as hard a time as Brave breaking past the clichés.

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Monsters University takes us through the college years of Mike and Sully before they were Monsters Inc.’s best scaring team. From a very early age Mike Wazowski has dreamed of attending Monsters University where he would begin his journey of becoming a professional scarer. After many years of hard work and studying Mike arrives at the prestigious college only to discover it’s not quite what he expected. Aiming to be the best in his class Mike Wazowski forms a rivalry with classmate James Sullivan, but the two’s competitive nature ends up being more harmful than helpful.

monster_university

Pixar’s visual excellence continues to dazzle and impress year after year, and of course Monsters University is no exception. I made it a point to rewatch Monsters Inc. this week and the difference between the two films is astounding. As is the case with most films, the 2001 hit is unfortunately starting to show its age, especially with the look of Mike and Sully. The main duo received an appropriately youthful redesign for Monsters University and the new look is absolutely wonderful. The monsters feature a more natural feel with softer lighting that makes the duo look more inviting. The world of Monsters University features a massive colorful upgrade as well and is filled with lively monsters, rounding off one of Pixar’s biggest films yet. The personality is oozing off the screen and the college campus is a perfect setting to parody. The visual gags are bountiful, ranging from silly slapstick to clever fun. As is Pixar’s tradition, there is plenty of Easter eggs and cameos to watch out for and it’s nice to look out for familiar faces that made a return in this outing.

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Much like with Brave, I walked out of Monsters University disappointed with it’s less than captivating story. For the most part it’s your traditional coming together as a team story with clever kid friendly college parodies thrown in. The humor itself seems to be lacking the dual cleverness that both children and adults can enjoy together and the themes of the film are transparently worn on the sleeve. I found myself chuckling throughout the movie and a smile is never wiped from my face but there weren’t many scenes that I busted out laughing. The pacing of the film doesn’t dedicate enough time to really flesh out the relationship between Mike and Sully and the inevitable switch from enemies to friends isn’t as smooth as I would have liked. I will say though that the two share amazing scenes towards the end that more than make up for their rocky turning point. One of the biggest strengths from 2001 Monsters Inc. was the strong relationship between Boo and Sully, something that Monster’s University fails to recapture in this prequel.

There isn’t a feeling of earned success in the film, mainly do the fact that much of the triumphs in the film come in the form of a montage. For the most part everything plays out in a straightforward fashion and the unlikely group of heroes that are incapable of teamwork, eventually discover strengths in their differences that help them over come the odds. I know that is an over simplification but there’s something missing from the formula that would help Monsters University to really stand out. Given that Monsters University is a prequel we more or less know how things are going to play out given the events of the first film, which leads to a paint by the numbers feel. The movie needed to really give a strong in-depth examination of Mike and Sully’s characters to off set the predictability and in my opinion it doesn’t quite reach that mark. It’s more Mike’s story than Sully’s, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing To be fair, even with the clichés, the film is undeniably cute and the focus on Mike Wazowski’s past makes for a heartwarming story.

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY

Getting to see a deeper insight on Mike’s troubling childhood helped define the character and watching his journey unfold is satisfying. Although he comes across as a confident braggart, the inner struggles with fitting in and being the best at everything help carve out a positive message about focusing on being the best you. It’s hard to go in to any more details without spoiling the movie but I loved the end on a personal level and it’s really nice to see that Monsters University tackle the sad realization that even your best isn’t enough sometimes. It’s the resilience of your character and figuring out how to best use your talents in other ways that leads to success. The ensemble around Mike and Sully really help to hammer this home and the charm of the group is what gives the film its fun nature. Featuring the voice talents of Joel Murray as Don Carlton, Sean Hayes as Terri Perry, Dave Foley as Terry Perry, Peter Sohn as Scotty “Squishy” Squibbles, and Charlie Day as Art, the supporting cast really add to the loveable nature of the film. This loveable gang of misfits lead by Mike and Sully are the heart of the film and it’s easy to get behind them.

One of the questions that inevitably seems to surface when it comes to Pixar and their sequels is whether or not they should stick to just to original stories. A bit of an unfair assertion given that there have only been two series with sequels up to this point, both of which have opposing degrees of critical reception. Toy Story has seen great success with their sequels, but the same could not be said for Cars, leaving many hesitant towards Monsters University as well as Pixar’s forthcoming movie Finding Dory (2015). To put it simply I enjoyed Monsters University and the return trip to this world and characters is definitely worth it despite its flaws. Monsters University may not quite reach the par set before it with Monsters Inc. but it’s still an entertaining movie and a vote of confidence for me that Pixar can tell fun stories, original or sequels. It may not be Pixar’s most captivating film story wise but Monster’s University is still a fun ride with charming old friends from start to finish.

THE BLUE UMBRELLA

I want to talk about the Pixar short that played before the movie despite my hesitations. Unfortunately due to arguing parents at the start of The Blue Umbrella short I didn’t quite get experience the entire short and really capture it’s emotional moments. However, what I saw was absolutely breathtaking and easily one of the best looking short film or movie that Pixar has done. The photorealistic animation brought to life a rainy city and the music that accompanied it matched perfectly. From what I saw the short did seem to share striking similarities to Disney’s Paperman that debuted last year in front of Wreck-it Ralph but I’m sure it’s nothing more than coincidence. Either way it’s a highly impressive and cute short film in an increasingly impressive line up.

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Monsters University is colorful return trip to the world of our favorite lively monsters, making it one of Pixar’s biggest movies yet. The characters have never looked better and Pixar’s visual excellence continues to impress as it does year after year. The movie isn’t without its flaws though, the biggest being it’s paint by the numbers story. Given that it’s a prequel we pretty much know how things are going to play out leaving the element of surprise missing throughout the movie. Its humor tends to lean more on the childish side, lacking the dual cleverness that both children and adults can enjoy. That being said the story is still a heartwarming tale if not too familiar, and the wonderful cast of supporting characters help hammer home it’s themes, even if they are transparently worn on the sleeve. It may not be Pixar’s most captivating film story wise but Monsters University is still a cute and fun ride with charming old friends from start to finish!

Interested in writing reviews or news posts for Thinking Cinematic? Contact me at ThinkCinematicReviews@gmail.com! You can also send your guest reviews there too!

Connect with me at:
Twitter: @Treyrs20o9
Twitter: @Think_Cinematic
Email: ThinkCinematicReviews@Gmail.com

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One response to “Monsters University

  1. Pingback: Movie Monday Update Week of June 24th | Thinking Cinematic

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